America’s Newest National Park

Friday, October 1, 2010

During our transition day from Santa Fe up to Buena Vista, we stopped at Great Sand Dunes National Park in south-central Colorado.

Originally designated as a National Monument in 1932, the Great Sand Dunes was promoted to a National Park and Preserve by Congress in 2004.

With 30 square miles of dunes the park contains the largest dune field, as well as the tallest sand dunes, in North America. The highest, Star Dune, rises roughly 750 feet above the San Luis Valley floor.

Visitors are free to walk wherever they want on the dunes. Other popular activities include sandboarding, skiing and sledding. In fact, there’s a shop just outside of the park entrance that will rent all the equipment you need to participate in any of these unique sports.

The park is more than just sand, however. There are 150,000 acres of grasslands, wetlands, dunes, forests, alpine lakes, and three peaks that exceed 13,000 feet in elevation, all contained within the park boundaries. There are several hiking trail opportunities as well.

Visitors should be aware of extreme sand temperatures. Although summer afternoon air temps may only read in the eighties, the surface of the sand can reach a scorching temperature of around 140 degrees! As a result, the park encourages people to wear closed shoes. Gaiters would definitely be of great help in keeping sand out of your boots as well.

Walking in the sand can be difficult. When walking uphill your feet tend to slide back downhill with each step. However, running and jumping back down the dunes like a kid makes it all worthwhile.

Here are a few scenes from the dunes:

Jeff Detailed trail information for the Great Smoky Mountains; trail descriptions, key features, pictures, maps, elevation profiles, news, books and more.

1 comment

Unknown said...

Thank for the write-up and pics. We're actually considering this for our family summer vacation next year, since the park -- unlike most of the National Parks -- allows dogs everywhere.